USOC making its case on six-month rule

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The United States Olympic Committee will challenge the IOC on Wednesday over a doping rule that currently bars American sprinter LaShawn Merritt from the 2012 London Games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport says it intends to issue a verdict in September on the legality of the so-called "six-month rule."

The IOC rule took effect in 2008 and prevents athletes who receive doping bans of more than six months from competing at the next Summer or Winter Games. The USOC believes that is a second penalty for a single offense.

The IOC insists it is an eligibility issue, not a sanction, and that it should be free to decide who can take part in its event.

Merritt, the 400-meter champion at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, completed a 21-month ban in July after testing positive for testosterone prohormones found in a male enhancement product. He is not expected to attend the one-day hearing.

In an unusual move, the court invited third parties to submit their views on the case for consideration.

CAS said confidentiality rules that apply to its arbitration cases prevented disclosure of which athletes or organizations offered opinions.

The verdict will be studied closely by the British Olympic Association, which bars athletes from the Games for life if they serve a doping ban.

A victory for the USOC would not be binding in Britain, but would likely prompt a review of selection rules that currently prevent athletes such as sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar from competing at their home Olympics.